February 8: The Birth of a Nation Premiers, Eastern Air Lines Flight 663 Crash, and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events have taken place on February 8 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them
1915 - The Birth of a Nation premiers
The Birth of a Nation (which was initially called The Clansman) was a 1915 silent epic directed and co-produced by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. The screenplay is adapted from the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon Jr., as well as Dixon's novel The Leopard's Spots. Griffith co-wrote the screenplay with Frank E. Woods, and co-produced the film with Harry Aitken. It was released on this date in 1915.
It would be hard for the modern viewer, used to short, action-packed movies, to watch this. The film is three hours long and was originally presented in two parts separated by an intermission; it was the first 12-reel film in the United States. The film chronicles the relationship of two families in the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era over the course of several years: the pro-Union Northern Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy Southern Camerons. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth is dramatized.
The film was a commercial success, though it was highly controversial for its portrayal of black men (many played by white actors in blackface) as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women, and the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force. There were widespread black protests against The Birth of a Nation, such as in Boston, while thousands of white Bostonians flocked to see the film. The NAACP spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign to ban the film. Griffith's indignation at efforts to censor or ban the film motivated him to produce Intolerance the following year. The film's release is also credited as being one of the events that inspired the reformation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.
1965 - Eastern Air Lines Flight 663 crash
A real tragedy occurred on this date in 1965. Eastern Air Lines Flight 663 took off from Boston, headed for Atlanta, with scheduled stopovers at JFK, Richmond, Charlotte, and Greenville, SC. On the night of February 8, 1965, the aircraft, a Douglas DC-7, crashed near Jones Beach State Park, New York, just after taking off from JFK. All 79 passengers and five crew members perished.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s and Civil Aeronautics Board’s investigations determined that evasive maneuvers undertaken by Flight 663 to avoid an oncoming Pan Am Boeing 707 caused the pilot to suffer spatial disorientation and lose control of the aircraft. The accident is the third-worst accident involving a DC-7.
Fifteen ships, accompanied by eleven helicopters and numerous rescue divers converged on the scene of the crash in hopes of rendering aid to survivors. Two hours after impact, debris began floating up to the surface. By sunrise, seven bodies had been recovered; three more were discovered in the course of the following three days. In locating the wreckage, the United States Navy provided underwater sonar to assist with the operation. Thirteen Coast Guard vessels helped search the shores of Long Island and provided salvage efforts. Rescue workers and volunteers scoured 40 miles of beaches, collecting debris that washed ashore
2013 - Early February North American blizzard
The Early February 2013 North American blizzard developed from the combination of two areas of low pressure, primarily affecting the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada, causing heavy snowfall and hurricane-force winds. The storm crossed the Atlantic Ocean, affecting Ireland and the United Kingdom. The nor'easter's effects in the United States received a Category 3 rank on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, classifying it as a "Major" Winter Storm.
The first low-pressure system, originating from the Northern Plains of the United States, produced moderate amounts of snow across the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada. The second low, originating across the state of Texas, produced heavy rains and flooding across much of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic parts of the U.S. As the two systems merged off the Northeast coast on February 8, 2013, they produced heavy snowfall over a large region from North Jersey and inland from New York City through eastern New England up to coastal Maine and inland to Ontario. At least eighteen deaths were attributed to the storm.
These are the most notable events in the U.S. history that occurred on February 8, at least in our view.